She Stoops to Conquer: Play - Summary and Analysis

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      Oliver Goldsmith attacked the artificiality of the sentimental comedy in The Present State of Polite Learning. He reacted to the prevailing fashions of sentimental comedy through his two plays. Goldsmith wrote two prose comedies, both of which rank high among their class. The first, called The Good- Natur'd Man (1768), is not so good as the second, She Stoops to Conquer (1773). Each, but especially the latter, is endowed with an ingenious and lively plot, a cast of excellent characters, and a vivacious delightful style. Based on the Restoration comedy, they lack the Restoration grossness. She Stoops to Conquer had an immense popularity, and even yet it is sometimes staged.

She Stoops to Conquer is a comedy
She Stoops to Conquer is a comedy

      She Stoops to Conquer is a comedy of manners and lives up to the author's critical theory. Young Marlowe, shy before well-bred ladies but the very devil with barmaids hesitantly comes to woo Kate Hardcastle. Tony Lumpkin, Mrs. Hardcastle's on by a previous marriage, directs Marlowe to "the inn which is actually Hardcastle's residence. Kate pretends to be a barmaid and then to be a poor relation of the family. Marlowe, true to his nature behaves with the disguised barmaid in a bold manner. But he is attracted to the disguised poor relation and offers love. Thus Marlowe's timidity is cured, and Mrs. Hardcastle's mission to conquer her lover is successful. In the subplot, Miss Neville who is engaged to Hastings wins her lover, and Mrs. Hardcastle's plan of marrying her son 'to Miss Neville is frustrated.

Critical Analysis
      Goldsmith mocks sentimental comedy continually. The plot of the play is full of improbabilities but the characters are drawn in the humorous Johnsonian fashion. Hardcastle, Young Marlowe and Tony Lumpkin are all individuals new to the drama of their day. The play is derived from Farquhar's Beaux Stratagem in subject and good humour. But Goldsmith lent it some of his natural charm and the play is morally innocent. There are certain hilarious scenes with Tony Lumpkin as the central figure which provide comic mirth. She Stoops to Conquer is a satirical comedy of manners representing the artificialities of the eighteenth century society. But it has the ingredients of romantic comedy disguise, deception, mock courtship, variety of episodes, mingling of low characters. The subplot of Miss Neville and Hastings is a contrast to the main plot. The two are skilfully interwoven.

      Tony is a fine comic character. His mischievous pranks, inventiveness and his cheerfulness under all circumstances make him an immortal comic character. Miss Hardcastle is equally vivid with her wit, womanliness, resourcefulness and romantic nature. Other characters are also vividly sketched.

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